HTC Sensation

The HTC Sensation is a good phone with loads of features, but we did expect a little more grunt from the dual-core processor and it could definitely use a bigger battery.


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Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon


After an extremely busy first half of 2011, HTC adds yet another Android phone in its long line of smartphones. With HTC's brand recognition booming right now, the Sensation arrives on extremely good footing, but does it deliver the experience to match this high bar of expectation, remembering that it will be one of the most expensive phones in Australia on a plan at AU$79 per month through Telstra.

Design

Like Apple's MacBook range, the Sensation bares a style that is synonymous with its designer's. With a strong resemblance to the HD7 and Desire HD, the Sensation is unmistakeably a product of the same team responsible for so many of our favourite phones of late. In fact, from the front you could easily mistake this handset for either of the aforementioned, though its unique battery cover will be enough to settle any arguments you face when your mate picks up your phone off the table at the end of a night out at the pub.

The feel and appearance of its 4.3-inch is also immediately familiar. HTC uses a Super LCD panel in this screen and its warmth and sharpness takes us back to when we reviewed the Desire S and Incredible S only a few months ago now. This screen is more advanced than those on previous HTC's though, with a crisp qHD resolution increasing the pixels per inch of this lovely screen over previous models. Below the screen you'll find a strip of touch-sensitive navigation controls integrated into the glossy black bezel and an elongated earpiece grille over the display — a common feature on HTC's larger handsets.

The Sensation looks great, all in all, and though this design is far from unique in the HTC range, it should appeal to many. We do wish it was a tad lighter though, its 148 grams is noticeably heavier than the weight of the Samsung Galaxy S II and the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc.

A Sense for the user experience

Most exciting for HTC fans is the introduction of Sense 3.0, the latest update in HTC's long-running and critically acclaimed user interface layer for Android. This new iteration adds a faux-3D effect to the phone's home-screen rotation, giving your main interaction with the phone a spinning carousel-like look and feel. The phone's lock screen is also overhauled, offering four customisable lock-screen shortcuts and a couple of funky-looking animated backgrounds just for that screen, including a weather screen and an animated photo album. Also, if you loved the way HTC phones presented the daily weather information before, you're going to love the way the weather appears now in Sense 3.0.

The new-look weather app is a gorgeously designed affair.
(Credit: HTC)

These new elements build on all of the elements we loved in the previous version of Sense, which is found on the Desire HD and Incredible S, amongst others. Sense 3.0 still uses the HTC's customised notifications windows, with quick access to your application history, the task manager and commonly used settings.

Camera

Many of you reading this review will be weighing up the pros and cons between the Sensation and the Samsung Galaxy S II (GS2), undoubtedly the two juggernauts of 2011 thus far. If you're making this decision and the camera quality is an important factor for you, then we'd suggest you take another look at the GS2. HTC's cameras have come a long way in the recent releases, but the Samsung still takes the crown this time round.

If you choose the Sensation for any other reason, you'll still be very happy with the photos this camera takes. Its autofocus works over time picking out subjects as you line up shots, and when it works the results look great. The colour may not be as vibrant as those that you get when you use the Samsung and the focus is sometimes soft, but we were still pleased with the photos we took using this phone.

Under normal circumstances the Sensation's camera can shoot some fairly dull-looking shots.
(Credit: CBSi)

Under our studio lights it saw much better colour, as you would expect.
(Credit: CBSi)

Multimedia

The Sensation's excellent 4.3-inch display is an inviting feature for film buffs looking to treat this phone like a portable media player, but we will warn you to keep an eye on the kinds of files you want to transfer. If you have a collection of full-HD video transfers or files in MKV format, the Sensation will not tick all the boxes for you.

Our test media consists of files in a range of popular formats and resolutions. The Sensation worked well playing MP4, H.264, WMV and DivX files up to 720p resolution, but it struggled with our other videos. Our 1080p MP4 file, which has worked fine on devices using the Nvidia Tegra 2 chip, didn't refuse to play, but didn't display a picture and refused to stop after we exited the gallery, forcing us to soft reset the phone to restore it back to working order.

Another obstacle film lovers might have to hurdle in their multimedia experience is the lack of an HDMI port on the phone. That's not to say that you can't connect the Sensation to a TV via HDMI, you'll just need to invest in a Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) adapter, an attachment that plugs into the phone's micro-USB port. At the time of writing, these cables were selling for about AU$40 and were reasonably difficult to find.

Performance

In terms of hardware, the Sensation joins a unique club of smartphones powered by dual-core processors, and is amongst the fastest on paper with a 1.2GHz clock speed for each core. But in the real world, far away from white papers, the performance of the Sensation is a little underwhelming. Firstly, let us clarify that we mean underwhelming in comparison to other phones we've reviewed — this is still a fast phone. However, it lacks the absolute responsiveness we see in the Galaxy S II and the iPhone 4. Simple tasks like opening the address book or launching the dialler take a moment for the Sensation to process and rob the phone of the fluidity we expected from a phone with such an impressive spec sheet and a price tag to match (no thanks to Telstra, of course).

If we could take a guess we'd say the Sensation and its unique combination of Android Gingerbread and Sense 3.0 could use a little more RAM. HTC includes 768MB RAM rather than a full 1GB and it appears this handset could have used the extra punch that memory may have provided. Perhaps the Sense UI could also do with a spring clean? The system is increasingly complex with each new version, with new elements added and none subtracted.

We've also had more trouble with our Sensation review unit than we've experienced with other HTC handsets lately. This unit spontaneously rebooted once and the Sense launcher crashes multiple times over the weeks we spent testing it. We also noticed the strength of the antenna seemed weaker than we would have expected. To be fair, we don't have any equipment to test signal scientifically, but anecdotally we did lose coverage in part of our testing area where we would ordinarily expect to have a connection to the network.

We also need to point a harsh, cold spotlight on the Sensation's disappointing, yet expected, single day battery life. As with the Galaxy S II, when we say single day we mean one day, tops. Nearly every evening during our review period we found the Sensation had either 5 per cent battery life or had completely discharged when we reached for the charger at the end of the day. A constant discharge of power in standby was the main culprit here, so if you're someone who likes to leave 3G on all day you'll want to plan ahead and carry a charger with you.

Overall

At the end of the day, the HTC Sensation is less than we expected, but a solid smartphone all the same. We expected excellent design, construction and a slick user experience, which HTC has definitely delivered. But we also expected its dual-1.2GHz processor to blow us away and it didn't, and that HTC would place specific importance on battery life after the complaints that followed the release of the Desire HD, and it hasn't. HTC has cut two corners in putting the Sensation together, with less RAM and a smaller battery than its competitors, and these sacrifices impact on the end-user experience, leaving us with a good phone, but not a great phone.



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PatelS posted a comment   
India

Horrible phone, the worst i've ever owned.

There are so many glitches and bugs that came with this phone, and I know its not just me. For instance the Wi-Fi on the phone DOES NOT work at all and theres no fix to it. Bluetooth doesnt work, FM Radio doesnt work... not to mention all the crashes it has whenever i run a basic app (like Facebook for example).

The worst bug that has constantly **** me off with every use of this phone is the fact that the microphone only recieves sound if you YELL into it and even then the other person across the line says, "hello you there?" The battery is horrible, its thick and bulky.

Do not buy this phone unless you want to be scammed

 

PatelS posted a reply   
India

I rate this -1/10

smuth
2
Rating
 

"Atrocious Battery. Very Unreliable"

smuth posted a review   
United States

The Good:Internet speed, Graphics

The Bad:Poor battery, Poor sound. Unreliabl;e

This phone can be a pleasure and a disaster. Its a pleasure as long as the battery remains charged, which unfortunately is for a pathetically short time. It has really good features but in order to experience this you need the battery charged . The battery doesnt even last 6 hours. And this is after I used TWO diffferent sets (had my first one replaced after the screen broke). THe battery heats up very quickly also . I have had several moments of panic when it just suddenly died on me in the car when I was relying heavily on its GPS. Had to then depend on another more basic phone to save me from getting lost. I would not recommend anyone to buy this horrible phone. All these battery problems exist even AFTER I tweak the phone to reduce screen brightness, remove GPS, keep wifi off when not available, and all other imaginable tweaks which I have spent hours searching the internet. EVen after this the battery life is dismal. I start for work in the morning and by afternoon I am looking for charging spots. once the battery goes down, you cannot use any of the features. If the features are good only while being charges I might as well use a laptop or an ipad.
Other features:
Good: When connected INternet is super fast. Graphics are excellent.
BAd: Apart from above mentioned pathetic battery life. THe sound is horrible. You cannot hear the phone ring if you are in the adjacent room or even in the same room if there is another person talking or other music playing.
AS a phone it has other features which are good, but if i cannot hear any calls what is the use.

jt6755 Facebook
1
Rating
 

"Great phone, Not so great support"

jt6755 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Great Phone

The Bad:Terrible customer service experience from HTC Australia and international

I recently bought one of these beauties in Hong Kong's international airport and was over the moon about it. The phone was great right up until the stage where the screen stopped responding to touch inputs. I tried to send the phone back to HTC australia but was refused and told that i needed to send the phone to hong kong to be fixed ($50). Since then i have been played around by the terrible customer service team and even when speaking to the managers of department was unable to get definitive answers to my problems. Throughout the experience i have been hung up on, mislead and grossly overcharged to have the phone fixed under warranty and shipped back to me at great personal expense.

From this i would STRONGLY URGE anyone away from the phone and even HTC as a whole because of the POOR CUSTOMER SERVICE that you will receive if you have any problems with your phone.

 

ArmandM posted a comment   

Hi, can anyone assist with regards to saving "People"?

 

"One of the best phones EVER"

AussieEverton posted a comment   
Australia

The Good:EVERYTHING

The Bad:Nothing but maybe the back casing is hard to get off

I owned a samsung galaxy S previously to this after everyone said to get it, so.... I did and i hated it days into getting it. I even used a friends samsung galaxy S 2 and i hate it, it doesnt feel solid or look nice. BUT this phone feels and looks amazing, the work and performance blows my mind and the screen size is on the not to small and not to big size, the qHD sreen rez is by far the best out there. And when im not using the phone im usually looking at the back of it because it looks so god dam sexy, also the twin led light actually is the best light ever on a phone. Htc sense also is amazing, when the phone is MUCH louder in your pocket and when you turn it over it stops is just revoulutionary.


BUY THIS PHONE, NOW you will not regret it.....

Btw i have owned it for nearly 3 weeks.

 

smuth posted a reply   
United States

Are you sure you will still say the same about this phone now that 12 months have passed.?

 

"wifi problems"

N_K133 posted a comment   
Australia

Hi

I am looking into buying this phone but I have heard about wifi issues does anyone know about or have had this issue or any others?

 

LukeS2 posted a reply   

no wifi issues whatso ever with mine. It links on within a matter of about 2 -3 seconds of turning it on.

 

Yoda7 posted a comment   
Australia

Looks like you bought the better phone anyway.
Joe's review indicates the Galaxy S2 is ligher, faster and has a better camera then the HTC Sensation.

 

LukeS2 posted a reply   

i have the sensation and have a mate with the GSII and i cannot see a difference in what the camera does. and i know my phone takes better pics then the ones shown in the review.

sokomail
6
Rating
 

"When id HTC going to listen?"

sokomail posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Nice feel, HTC Sense 3.0, nice home screens

The Bad:Battery, Battery, Battery, feels slow for a duel core, crashes

Here is a real world experience. No sugar coating here. I don't use my phone as a media device, or games player or toy. To me it is a business tool and as such it has to be quick, easy to use, seamless and responsive. I have multiple applications running at once (on top of being on a call also), to get me through a day on the road and often the phone is also tethered to laptop. I also use it for presentations and data storage and transfer / processing between multiple computers both on a cloud basis and synced. When I had a play with this phone at first it went OK for a couple of days. But then it soon started too faulted. HTC with the Desire HD built a phone that hit it out of the ball park and set such a high bench mark for all smart phones that you would naturally thing it could only build on that platform. But HTC has only really taken baby steps with all the following releases of their top of the range grunt phones. The incredible S was a fine tuning of the DHD and this one also seems to have very small improvements. Compared to the Samsung GSII and even the Motorola Atrix, HTC have bought themselves back to the pack. This Sensation release addresses few of the issues the Incredible S and the Desire HD had before it. Namely 1080 proper HD video playback, faster processing (I will justify this in a second), camera quality and bloody battery life.
The Samsung and Atrix on battery life are not much better but the HTC seams to set a new low bench mark. Considering how heavy the phone is to start with, would it really hurt that much to put a bigger battery in it? These days with nearly all video turning to HD 1080 quality format HTC by now should have set the standard with this feature in their phones? Processing power I found an issue with this phone. Like the above article said on paper it should kick **** BUT why would you use anything less than a 1gb memory in it? HTC should be looking to even start to use 2gb ram in their phones by now. I found that multi tasking with this phone made it feel as slow as a single core processor phone and no faster than the Incredible S it replaces. It also disappointed me that the Sensation when it all got too hard just crashed or froze up? Bloody hell my old Windows 6.1 HTC tytn2 did not even do that. It just soldered on and caught up. I have a basic rule. If a phone I test crashes on me any more than 3 times in one week it goes straight back. Lastly the camera. iPhone, Samsung even Nokia put a better camera in their phones than what HTC can do (have to admit big improvement from HTC on this phone). HTC why not just do what everyone else does in the market place and just steal someone else%u2019s technology? Much simpler!
So in conclusion as a general use phone with nice features and a not so heavy user this is a good phone and will do the job well. But as a business phone I have to rate it as just average. Come-on HTC listen to what people are saying about your latest releases. Go back and think about when you were designing the Desire and the Desire HD and let%u2019s really see some WOW factor in the coming release of phones again. Because right now, your loosing clients and when people come off their Desire and Desire HD contracts and see that what your offering is not much better then what they had, then guess what? You will lose that client again for a further 2 years as they switch manufactures and contracts.

LukeS2 Facebook
9
Rating
 

"VERY nice phone"

LukeS2 posted a review   

The Good:CAMERA! ths sceen, ui

The Bad:battery life, no amoled screen??

The phone is awesome, the camera is insanely good for a phone, the screen is big and clear but not amoled? i was hoping it would have been being a flagship release in mid 2011. battery life is **** dont be using your pretty smart phone all day without a charger nearby.

 

"There is a reason for no amoled"

wiseman95 posted a reply   
Australia

The Good:Ok screen nice ui and decent camera

The Bad:Heavy, laggy, ugly, thick, battery is terrible

The reason is because Htc does not make their own amoled screens and Samsung is too smart to sell the technology to them, nokia makes their own too. Sensation is Terribly laggy but ui is nice

 

Blue Magic posted a comment   
Australia

Joseph Hanlon i wanted your advice on a phone to buy. have thought of buying an iphone but heard too much problems have come with the phone and was wondering could you give me some suggestions on what phones i could buy. i like to listen to music, watch movies and play games and would like a good camera to take good photos. thanks :)


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User Reviews / Comments  HTC Sensation

  • PatelS

    PatelS

    "Horrible phone, the worst i've ever owned.

    There are so many glitches and bugs that came with this phone, and I know its not just me. For instance the Wi-Fi on the phone DOES NOT work ..."

  • smuth

    smuth

    Rating2

    "This phone can be a pleasure and a disaster. Its a pleasure as long as the battery remains charged, which unfortunately is for a pathetically short time. It has really good features but in order to..."

  • jt6755

    jt6755

    Rating1

    "I recently bought one of these beauties in Hong Kong's international airport and was over the moon about it. The phone was great right up until the stage where the screen stopped responding to touc..."

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